One of New Zealand’s top Paralympic swimmers enjoyed a gym session with the Vodafone Warriors squad recently, demonstrating her exceptional strength and skill in a challenge with several of the NRL players.

Tupou Neiufi (17) joined the team at their Mount Smart Stadium gym as part of the club’s build up to the Great Vodafone Warriors Charity Day on Sunday, June 30 when the team plays the Penrith Panthers.

Paralympics New Zealand is one of the five partner charities the Vodafone Warriors are supporting through the charity day.

When she was only 15, Neiufi made her Paralympic debut in Rio in 2016, placing seventh in the women’s 100m backstroke S9. Most recently she competed at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games when she finished sixth in the women's 100m backstroke S9. 

Hit by a speeding car when she was just two years old, Neiufi says she has a left-sided hemiplegia, meaning she has paralysis on the left side of her body, with that side also smaller than her right side.

“I actually wanted to play netball at first, but I went to the first training session and because of my disability it was hard for me to run, catch and keep up with the other girls,” she said.

“My physio recommended I try swimming. After my first lesson I just fell in love with the sport, and here I am today.”  

“It means a lot that the Vodafone Warriors are supporting Paralympics New Zealand and helping provide funding for our sports, our trainings, our travel – I think it’s great of them to do that.”

Neiufi challenged several Vodafone Warriors players including Karl Lawton to a ‘dead bug’ strength challenge. 

Lawton said Neiufi’s story was extremely inspiring and the players enjoyed welcoming her to the club on the day.

“I think all the boys took something out of it,” he said.

“It was really inspiring hearing Tupou’s story. She’s obviously been through a lot and for her to succeed like she has, it really touches the heart.  

“Her core is pretty strong. She obviously trains a bit and she definitely showed me up during the challenge! I was very impressed with the strength she showed – it was great to have her here in the gym training with us today.”

Neiufi said she really enjoyed herself at the session.

“I guess you could say I did pretty well compared to some of them with the challenge. I really enjoyed the session today – it’s an amazing environment, seeing them all working together as a team and also having fun at the same time.  I wish them all the best for the rest of their season.”

As part of the Great Vodafone Warriors Charity Day, fans have the opportunity to do their bit when buying tickets by entering the code for their favourite charity from among the club’s five partners. For every ticket purchased with a charity code, the Vodafone Warriors will donate an additional $5 straight to that charity.

To support Paralympics New Zealand when buying your tickets for the June 30 match against the Penrith Panthers, use the code word PARA at the following link: https://www.ticketmaster.co.nz/promo/za5nok to donate $5 to Paralympics NZ.